The UN refugee agency is concerned about Britain’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, under which anyone can apply to host a refugee for a period of at least six months.
Citing “increasing reports of Ukrainian women feeling threatened by their sponsors,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is urging UK officials to fine-tune the application and matching process.
“UNHCR believes that a more appropriate matching process could be put in place by ensuring that women and women with children are matched with families or couples, rather than with single men,” the official said. agency in a statement Wednesday. “Matching done without the proper supervision can lead to increased risks women may face, in addition to the trauma of displacement, family separation and violence already experienced.”
The agency also worried about what would happen if the original host turned out to be a security threat to the refugee, especially given the six-month minimum.
The government launched the Homes for Ukraine program in mid-March after coming under fire for only accepting several hundred refugees fleeing war. Some 100,000 people signed up as potential hosts on the first day, and that number has since doubled.
However, only a quarter of Ukrainian refugees who were granted visas (about 12,000 people) arrived in the UK last week, prompting continued public criticism of slow bureaucracy as well as apologies from several senior government officials during the delay.
And some refugees have arrived in the UK only to see their housing conditions fail, with SkyNews reporting that there have been dozens of cases in which refugees have become homeless “after their relationship with their sponsors broke down”.
Desperation and confusion have led some refugees looking for accommodation to turn to social media, where they are vulnerable to exploitation.
This story originally appeared in the morning edition live blog.